Topic: Health
Feature
Somalia's HIV Positive Population
By ABDI ABTIDOON 05/14/2012
HIV Support Group's Logo
© Somalia Report, all rights reserved
HIV Support Group's Logo

For residents of Mogadishu, HIV positive neighbours remain a phenomenon to them since most believe that Muslims are immune to the disease. These and other myths have created a great deal of challenges for the HIV positive population who cannot disclose their status to the public.

To stem the adverse effects of the disease coupled with myths and misconceptions, the South Central Somalia people living with HIV/Aids network (SCSPN) was established three years ago in Merca town of Lower Shabelle. The volunteer outfit aims to assist HIV positive Somalis by supplying them with vital medication, care and treatment. Members of the network receive drugs supplies in the suburbs of Mogadishu where they have set up a centre.

Mohamed Said Shire is HIV positive and the founder of this network.

He told Somalia Report how they established the network and the stages or phases they went through.

"In the year 2006 I decided to assist the HIV and Aids victims, since I also suffer from the disease. I started in the town of Merca. I was then supported by local Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and that was how I assisted those who were suffering. Towards the end of the year 2009, we launched the organization in Mogadishu with 45 members."

Abdirahman Ibrahim, the director of the organization who also spoke to Somalia Report said that even though convincing people that they could live positively with the disease was a challenge, they managed to encourage a lot of people to benefit from the program and now they have registered 672 people who live in central and southern Somalia.

"We assist both women and men and we sensitize them through seminars. We have centers in Mogadishu and Merca where they can get the drugs that sustain them," said the director.

The network (SCSPN) voluntarily plans and implements awareness creation programs to encourage HIV positive individuals with minimal or no support from aid agencies.

Recently, when suicide bombings increased in Mogadishu, some rumours emerged that those who detonate themselves are HIV positive people who are convinced to do so by al-Shabaab. This was greatly condemned by the network which supports HIV positive people who feared being discriminated against. The network operates inside al-Shabaab controlled areas and faces a lot of challenges due to the strict rules by insurgent leaders.

"People believe that they will die if they get infected with the disease. I have been living with this disease for ten years, and you can see that I am still alive," Ali Abdi Mohamed who is one of the victims told Somalia Report.

Mohamed Said Shire, far right, founder of HIV support network with colleagues and members
© Somalia Report, all rights reserved
Mohamed Said Shire, far right, founder of HIV support network with colleagues and members

Aziza who is among the women living with HIV/Aids told Somalia Report how she got infected.

"I got married to a man who was HIV positive but I did not know. After a couple of months he became sick and told me that he was suffering from HIV. He asked me to forgive him and he succumbed to the disease and died. I migrated to Yemen and married another man. I gave birth to a boy, however my son and I were both found to be HIV positive."

Aziza and her son live in Mogadishu. She recently travelled to Nairobi, Kenya for further treatment after she received some contributions from her friends and family members.

“Sometimes i feel sad when I recall the kind of disease that I am suffering from," she said.

Most of the HIV positive residents in Mogadishu who spoke to Somalia Report say they are not willing to get married to uninfected individuals so as to stem the spread of the virus.

According to the director of the network, HIV positive people do not get any support from the ministry of health and the government of Somalia who have an obligation to protect and support them. But they pointed out that there are doctors who support them with medication and treatment and among them is Dr. Mohamed Mohamud Duffle.

Somali society is polygamous with a fairly high occurrence of divorce and remarriage. Despite this, the existence of the HIV/Aids is still denied since the condition is associated with promiscuity, and the Somali society is reluctant to address issues related to sexuality. Stigma and denial are common and families abandon their relatives once they know they are infected.

During the early years, several cases were identified and referred to Merca hospital for treatment, but none of the patients ever reached the hospital. In a conservative Somali society, many prefer to remain silent rather than seek treatment and social support despite the danger that this decision poses to their lives.

Seven Children Reported Among the Dead
By MOHAMED NUXURKEY 04/06/2012
IDP family waiting for aid
Somalia Report
IDP family waiting for aid

26 people, including seven children, have died following an outbreak of cholera and measles in the south-central region of Middle Shabelle. Medical sources in the region say the situation may worsen if urgent action is not taken. Most of the deceased children are said to have died due to inadequate treatment.

Nurse Yasmiin Ahmed Hassan, who works at a local voluntary clinic in the outskirts of Mogadishu, spoke to Somalia Report.

“There are increasing numbers of people who have different diseases coming to us every day and every night, but cholera and measles patients have been the most common since last month. We have also high rates of acutely malnourished people, specially women and children, on our lists. A number of children and mothers have died here as a result of malnutrition and lack of being vaccinated against cholera," said Yasmiin.

The lack of adequate medicines in the region has forced many people to seek treatment in Mogadishu and its outlying villages. Mogadishu’s maternity ward at Benadir Hospital is one of the treatment centers overwhelmed by these patients, ever since drought hit the Horn of Africa region late last year.

Somalia Report spoke with Shamso Hussein Ali, a 26 year-old mother caring for her two feverish cholera-afflicted children at Benadir hospital.

"Both of them started with diarrhea at the same time. I brought them to the hospital after one day, because their situation had become very dire. I hope now they are recovering and that we will get helpful care from the hospital," she said.

Two children have died in the hospital within the past 24 hours, according to Dr. Luul Mohamed Mohamed. Dr. Luul added that the rooms are overflowing with the new patients, and expected the number of cholera and measles cases to double during the current season.

People are continuing to flee from Middle Shabelle and parts of Juba regions as a result of the prevailing disease and conflict.

In Baidoa some women and children are now able to get access to the city’s hospital after the recapture of the city by the Transitional Federal Government and Ethiopian forces. The World Health Organisation (WHO) subsequently announced that it had recommended operations in Baidoa.

But many aid agencies are still not able to get access to other regions like Middle Shabelle, as the al-Shabaab militant group still maintains its policy of restricting the access of international aid groups in areas under its control.

Exclusive
SR Interviews Dr. Hawa Dhiblawe
By SUCAAD MIRE 03/24/2012
Dr Hawa Abdi
© Hiiraan Online
Dr Hawa Abdi

Dr. Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe who is locally known as Mama Hawa is a true Somali patriot who has dedicated and risked her life repeatedly for the people of Somalia. A pioneer female Obstetrician and Gynaecologists, Dr. Hawa established a small clinic in her rural home which eventually grew into what is now Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF). Dr. Hawa’s clinic is currently a massive Internally Displaced People’s (IDPs) camp where health, food, education and security services are provided at no cost to needy residents.

This life sustaining sanctuary has been subject to several attempts at unlawful takeover in war torn Somalia. DHAF has survived despite the multitude of war lords, militia and criminals that have controlled and wrung Somalia for all its worth.

In the latest attempt to disrupt DHAF camp, a local businessman has claimed ownership of the land that houses the camp. Dr. Hawa and her daughters have been denied the right to fight for their land and were expelled from part of the camp.

They stubbornly hold on to what little space they have left and continue to provide services to the desperate populations that flood the camp for food, shelter, healing and some peace. At this trying juncture in her life, Dr. Hawa was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. Actress and United Nations (UN) humanitarian ambassador Angelina Jolie championed Dr. Hawa's nomination.

Somalia Report had the opportunity to interview Dr. Hawa and her daughter.

Welcome to Somalia Report. Could you briefly tell us about yourself?

I am Hawa Abdi Dhiblawe. I was born in Mogadishu, Abdi Aziiz district, in 1947. I grew up in Baroorow and Garasalamow respectively between Mogadishu and Afgoye. I completed my secondary school studies in Mogadishu. I won a scholarship from the Soviet Union and studied in Kiev presently known as Ukraine. I studied medicine and then returned to Mogadishu where I completed my studies for a Law Degree at the Somali National University in Mogadishu. I later opened Hawa Abdi clinic in 1983, then I renamed it Dr. Hawa Abdi Foundation (DHAF) when the Somali government collapsed.

The likes of Bill Clinton, Bradley Manning and the Former Ukraine Prime Minister are among the nominees, how optimistic are you about winning the noble peace prize?

I am happy about my nomination for the Noble Peace Prize. I thought Somalis had no place in the world. I thought we were forgotten. Fortunately we are still alive and the world still remembers us. Mentioning my name means a lot to me and this is a great achievement for all Somalis. I am very optimistic now that the world remembers Somalia especially someone like me who has been there for the past 27 years.

What do you think of the Somali peace proposals? How would you advise Somali people so that they may get long-lasting peace?

I think Somalis need to solve their problems by themselves. They need to talk to each other and understand what they want.

I would urge Somali youth not listen to the myths which others utter. They should stand up for their country and restore peace and hope for their people. 13 men stood up and gave us the nation of Somalia. Some of them didn’t have a High School education, but they were determined, committed, strong and honest.

They should study well, and improve every angle in their lives then all will be well. You need to develop your personality, education, economy and all aspects of yourself to be useful for your country.

I have waited for 27 years to see Somalia gain peace, and I am still waiting to see that happen. However, things are deteriorating day after day. I don't think there is anyone who needs or seeks peace more than I do.

Tell us about the Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and the security threats they are exposed to.

Their security threats are many, and it gets worse every year. We need an effective Somali peace force with officials who are honest and loyal to their people and country. There’s no need for foreign intervention. There will be less security threats or none at all in that case.

I would like to ask Somali peace forces to save their country. Shirking your duties will not help you and clan allegiances should not influence your position. You have been clan warlords for the last 20 years, what did you gain? You are the saviours of Somali women, children and elderly people. Please wake up and save us, this is your duty. We are the home of famine, gangs, pirates and a failed state. That is entirely our fault and we should blame ourselves.

What can you tell us about Somali women, especially those in IDP camps?

They face many challenges, especially health issues. For example in 2007, when Ethiopian troops entered Somalia, we saw many unusual incidents like pre-mature labour and many cases of miscarriage due to the fierce fighting in the capital with heavy gunfire sounds and smog from explosions. Some of the weapons that Ethiopian troops were using had unusual sounds and may have had some chemical components. Nearly 2,300 women who were admitted my hospital lost their babies and some of them died during that time.

Sometimes they flee their homes while they are pregnant, they might travel on foot for several days risking their health and that of their babies. Somali women face one of the toughest challenges in the life.

Another problem Somali women face, which I believe is the worst, is when her father, her uncle and her husband fight each other for the sake of their clans. They are all her family and she can't do anything but suffer, because she is an ultimate loser. Whoever dies is her family, and the murderer is her family as well.

Do you think militant groups and tribes will recognize women's ability to lead and reconcile factions in the Somali society?

If you do not recognize Somali women’s role in the community, you have offended your mother your sister and your wife. Somali women can be stronger than men, in most cases they are not corrupt and know very well how to manage the country economically. They are honest and kind.

What can be done to improve health care and human rights, while there are militant groups, mini states and tribal militias who are all opposing the government?

If there is a division among Somalis, we can improve nothing, and if Somalis continue to divide themselves like this, there will come a day when two siblings will fight each other. If we unite we will have the ability to defend our sovereignty and our coastline from illegal fishing and waste dumping.

What can be done to strength civil society in the country?

We can achieve a lot if we put aside clan loyalties and division. Being too proud of someone who died centuries ago will give you nothing. Even if he or she was a good person and strong enough, he or she is now part of the past. Make your own legacy and do not be overly of proud what you did not achieve. Claiming that I am from that state or this state will not help you develop. The Somali Youth League had only 13 young men. Some of them had not studied let alone attained a professional career, but they were great people because they knew what unity can achieve.

What will DHAF do after it is moved from its previous work site, and how will you continue to serve the women and children of Somalia?

We have not changed our worksite we will continue to work there in any condition that we can. We will continue serving them. Each day we admit more than 30 women in labor.

We received news that some people want to evacuate the residents from the area but we will work hard to give hope to the Somali community in the area. As they kill our people we will try to deliver the same number as the number they kill each day. We welcome needy people to our base.

What would you like to tell the Somali people? What message would you like to send to Somali Mothers?

Unite and take responsibility for your country. Fight only against your enemies and not each other.

For Somali mothers, continue playing your heroic role.

Somalia Report also interviewed Dr. Deqa Aden Waqaf.

Tell us about DHAF and how does it works?

It was founded in 1983, as a Rural health and development center. We used to charge the people from the urban areas, but the people from Rural area were given free services. When the government collapsed we became a foundation. Mum Hawa’s priority was to develop community services that support families through income generation and create independent families. We established development projects for farmers and fishermen.

What are the major health concerns of Somalis?

It depends on the season and wars, sometimes in the war time you see unusual things. Malaria and Cholera during rainy seasons are common but it depends on the situation. Within a severe situation, the number of health issues increase and vary. Each day, we receive nearly 250 patients aside from in-patients. Our hospital has more than 400 beds. When there is fighting we receive more than 800 patients on a daily basis.

What motivated Dr. Hawa to take up this role, while the country was becoming one of the most dangerous places for a woman?

Determination, she was not able to save the whole country, so she dedicated herself to restoring peace starting through her foundation. She established something like a small government, which has some sort of peace and stability it has its own jail. You will be arrested if you try something illegal in the hospital or break rules. Within our base, we have some stability and peace, but if you go out, you are in chaos.

So, DHAF is a small state in a chaotic country? What kind of laws do you use?

Of course Somali culture and customary law (xeer) is the best and most applicable. We have elders in the camp, mother has a Law Degree so she established some rules which include the Sharia system and its laws.

On May, 2010, mum Hawa was arrested by militant groups who put her under house arrest for 10 days. I heard that some of Somali women who were in the camp protested and asked the militant groups to release Dr Hawa, who was later released, what can you tell us about that day?

Yes, they placed her under house arrest for 10 days, and then some women led a protest against her imprisonment. Most of them were those in the camp and working as nurses in the hospital.

They risked the lives of many people by their action and mum Hawa had refused to resume her work unless they apologized and freed young men whom they had abducted. They did free the young men and even apologized.

Why did the Militant groups hand over your land? Were you allowed to defend your land before the court?

I don't know why. They have to answer to that. They did not give us a chance to defend our land before the jury, but we gave them all the documents which proves our ownership to the land. They had it for a month and they know everything. On February 26 they called our Field work leader in the camp and they did not allow him to enter the court. They denied us our rights to have a lawyer even an Islamic lawyer.

We are not ready to shed the blood of Somalis. One day there will be a Somali government which will give us back our rights and our land.

Can you tell us about some of the heroic actions that Dr. Hawa is known for?

I’ll give you some examples. During the famine in 1991, she sold all her property including her jewellery to feed starving children and mothers in Somalia. She separated the people in to two groups, then each group had a day to get a meal, the next day the second would come and get meals. Each group had its day to eat.

In another incident, the International Commitee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had called her and told her that there was some humanitarian aid available but they could not reach our base. She set out and in the process of delivering the aid, some of Somali warlord’s militia tried to loot the humanitarian aid. She declared that if they had to take the food, they would have to kill her first and she gave them a lecture. Instead of looting the aid, they escorted her and helped her distribute the food to needy people.

Somalia Report has learned that militant groups begun destroying the makeshift homes of the IDPs in Hawa Abdi’s camps. Dr. Hawa Abdi was taken ill and admitted to hospital upon receiving the news. One of her family members confirmed that she is in stable condition at the moment.

Beseiged City May Crumble Under al-Shabaab Pressure
By IMH 03/17/2012
Garbaharey
© FSNU
Garbaharey

Health workers in Gedo’s capital city of Garbaharey expressed their concern regarding the shortage of medicine in the city. The manager of the Garbaharey General Hospital Dr Ahmed Ali, told Somalia Report that 60 patients are admitted in the wards, some of whom have sustained bullet wounds from recent battles and 20 of them are suffering from malaria and other communicable diseases. However, the hospital has not yet provided full treatment to them since there is a shortage of drugs supplies within the town.

Garbaharey is currently under control of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) who ousted al-Shabaab fighters from the area last year. Al-Shabaab militants have positioned themselves on the outskirts of the city and set up blockades on routes leading into the city. Garbaharey remains inaccessible and is bound to give in to the siege by militias.

Dr Ahmed appealed to all aid agencies and Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for help in the form of essential drugs and medical supplies to cater for the health needs of residents in the city. Dr Ahmed urged all medical agencies and the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) to act upon the situation immediately. He warned that that if the aid agencies do not provide relief aid in the form of essential drugs, the situation will worsen.

The TFG Governor of Gedo, Hussien Mohamud Farey, who spoke to Somalia Report, explained that the TFG is struggling to clean off al-Shabaab remnants in Gedo and pave way for aid agencies and TFG's Ministry of Health to access the area.

“Our administration cannot fully cater for the needs of the region. There is no assistance from the TFG in Mogadishu. We have been awaiting the salaries of the TFG troops in Gedo for several months now,” he said.

Al-Shabaab fighters have blockaded all roads to the area making it impossible to supply medicine, food and other humanitarian aid to Garbaharey.

Abdulahi Mohamed Ali, a patient in Garbaharey Hospital who spoke to Somalia Report, stated that they have not received any treatment during the two months he has been in the Hospital. He also mentioned that aid agencies have not arrived in Garbaharey since al-Shabaab barred the roads to the city three months ago.

Another Garbaharey resident informed Somalia Report they have not gotten sufficient food supplies and clean water for months since TFG troops and Kenyan Defence Forces (KDF) drove out al-Shabab fighters from the area.

Garbaharey has only one General Hospital which consists of ten rooms and the operating theatre. World Health Organization (WHO) used to supply drugs to the hospital but they left after al-Shabaab banned them from the region.

UPDATE
Operations Resume for 4 NGOs Accused of Corruption
By SHIINE OMAR, ASSIA SHIDANE 03/14/2012
Galmudug President Mohamed Alin
© Galmudug website - galmudug.com
Galmudug President Mohamed Alin

The President and senior officials of the semi autonomous state of Galmudug have lifted a ban that was imposed on four Non Governmental Organisations (NGOs) three days ago. The four agencies were banned by Galmudug’s Minister for Health Abdullahi Hassan Mohamed who accused the agencies of corruption. They are currently authorised to resume operations in Galmudug area.

Hassan Mohamud Hail, Galmudug’s Parliamentary speaker told Somalia Report on Tuesday evening that the Galmudug administration allowed them to resume operations as discussions on how to solve some of the raised issues are initiated by the Galmudug President, Mohamed Alin. The previous decision to ban the agencies from Galmudug was made without sufficient consultations with other officials and ministries of the region.

World Health Organisation (WHO), United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF), Relief International (RI) and Somaliland Family Health Association (SOFHA) have now resumed operations in the area.

“We realized that the Minister for Health made a hasty decision in banning these NGO’s. There has been some misunderstanding between these agencies and the Minister and the issues will be resolved after further discussions. These organizations have been operating for sometime in the area and can provide better services to the people of Galmudug. We will discuss these issues with the concerned entities,” said Hassan Mohamud Hail.

During a telephone conversation with the President Mohamed Alin this morning, he explained that the prior decision to ban the agencies was hasty and made without consultation with his office. President Alin conceded that issues of management and the need for establishment of better communication channels between the agencies and Galmudug’s administration needed to be resolved for the expansion of health and development programmes by these agencies. Currently, these agencies are based in Puntland where their operations are planned and monitored from. The Galmudug administration prefers that they establish a separate office in Galmudug and involve the local administration in development planning and implementation.

“The immunization program has been ongoing for years and is overseen by WHO staff and officials who are based in Puntland. We would prefer that they establish a fully fledged office in Galmudug where they can continue to serve needy populations in liaison with the local administration. We shall discuss these issues with the agencies and work towards serving the population better,” said President Alin.

The president who is currently in Nairobi intends to return to Galkayo where he will initiate discussions with the development agencies.

“We all seek what is best for our people. Am sure that the agencies will be willing to work towards solutions that ensure better humanitarian and health services provision for the people of Galmudug,” he added.

Mohiyadin Mohamed, a resident of Galkayo expressed his relief at the news that the four NGO’s would resume operations in Galmudug area.

“The decision to allow NGO’s to do their work is a good one and I am pleased by it. They will help more people in the region and I advise the government to ensure that they implement required projects. The government must take the responsibility of ensuring their security,” said Mohiyadin Mohamed.

None of the agencies have commented on the developments so far.